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Mark Wethli, 'Untitled.' 2011

Mark Wethli, “Untitled.” Found wood and acrylic on cardboard. 24 x 18 inches. 2011.
© Mark Wethli. Courtesy of the artist.

When I made this painting it felt as if it was taking shape in my peripheral vision. It took a gentle act of will to keep it there long enough to finish it, like one of those dreams in which you’re flying but you know not to think about it too much or the dream will end. When I’m able to maintain that state of mind long enough, I’ll look up when I’m done and usually like what I find.

Paintings that happen this way are a welcome event but it takes me a while to sort them out. This painting has been in the studio for a couple of years now and I haven’t made anything like it since, but I don’t mind the wait. I like the way the painted lines seem to be the blueprint for the framework in front of them but also its cast shadow, vying with the actual cast shadows; something I didn’t realize at the time.

When I made this painting it felt as if it was taking shape in my peripheral vision. It took a gentle act of will to keep it there long enough to finish it…

In “Cezanne and the End of Impressionism,” Richard Shiff talks about Cezanne’s brushstroke and the unique facture of his paintings in terms of “making” and “finding,” citing his “technique of originality” (or “making a find”) as his most important contribution to modernism–a habit of mind that I would describe as a conscious state of unknowing.

The work of mine I value most has often begun with a painting of this kind—a hybrid outlier, without pedigree, that proves to be the harbinger of a new body of work three or four years later. What I’ve learned over time is that for every “find,” “making a find” takes time and a kind of mindful inattention to make its way into the work. When it does, though, there is often a roomful of them before I realize it already has.

Mark Wethli lives and works in Brunswick, Maine, where he is also the A. LeRoy Greason Professor of Art at Bowdoin College. His work was shown most recently in “Ice Water Flyswatter,” a group show at Tiger Strikes Asteroid in Philadelphia, and he has an upcoming solo show at The Painting Center, in New York, from March 25-April 19, 2014.

Editor’s Recs:

Read about Mark Wethli’s, Civitas (2012), a public art installation at University of Southern Maine’s Wishcamper Center, which takes as its point of departure Lorenzetti’s fresco The Effects of Good Government here, at the Maine Arts Commission. (Fabrication and installation video here.)

View recent paintings by Mark Wethli at Bowdoin College’s Department of Visual Arts faculty gallery page here, and his website here.

Mark Wethli’s faculty page at Bowdoin College.

Listen: Five tracks from Bright Commons, with sculptor John Bisbee (guitar), Mark Wethli (bass), artist Cassie Jones (keyboard) and Anthony Gatti (drums), here.

Follow: our ongoing discussion of artists on process, here.



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